Sim Sala Bim by Gina Williams
“‘Is this all there is?’
The question caught me off guard for a split second, sucked a little bit of air from my gut…”
Where We Are by Jared Yates Sexton
“The thing that really got her was how I listened to records all hours of the night. She said she didn’t care about my moods, my general nihilism or ill temperament…”
Hunger, Not Tame by Sheila Lamb
“Brutal wind beat against the door of her camper. The cold didn’t bother her—Kate had only ever lived in cold and windy environments—but the sand did…”
Waiting for Flight by Michael Chin
“Carl Perkins spied his son’s ex, Lucy, in the airport terminal…”
Misfire by Joe Oestriech
“An hour after load-out, Biggie pulls the Econoline into the parking lot of the Raleigh Fairfield Inn…”
What of the Raven, What of the Dove by Randon Billings Noble
“A story was growing inside my neck but I didn’t yet know what it said…”
The Line by Amy Collini
“The week before I leave for freshman orientation at Ohio State, my father offers me a gift: an “in” at the plant where he works…”
Moth in the House by Jessica Greenbaum
“Skimming the wood floor like a bi-plane over the November fields,
might wonder where the breeze went, and all the chorus and lilt of the leaves…”
Bubble by Jessica Greenbaum
“Walking through the park, I saw a grackle ferrying a
bubble in its beak as it flew to the tree top where…”
Back Seat Event by Gabrielle Freeman
“I want to kiss you, but
I open the car door, and it is raining…”
Those Birds by Michael Colonnese
“Lined up on the wire,
Everything She Can’t See by Liz Ahl
“The little girl is full of questions
and asks them all, one after another…”
Waterfront Metro Station by Elizabeth Acevedo
“through the speakers
the conductor’s voice scratched
a stop away from mine…”
The thing that really got her was how I listened to records all hours of the night. She said she didn’t care about my moods, my general nihilism or ill temperament, even how I got to sulking around the house and cursing every good thing she’d ever learned to love. No. She said it was Zevon. It was The Kinks. It was the difference between half volume and full blown to the hilt.
If you want be a sad sack of shit, she said, be a sad sack of shit. But, she added, leave me out of it. For that matter, leave the neighbors out of it too.
There was logic there. Who could deny it? There wasn’t even a single, solitary purpose to blasting Promised Land at two in the morning. No joy to be had in watching the Phillips’ kitchen light flick on next door and see Ed Phillips there in the window, one hand on his hip and his bathrobe failing to hide his beer gut.
I can’t live like this, she told me. To expect me to is criminal. Those people have children. They have jobs.
I wanted to say that we had jobs too but it wouldn’t of made much difference. Things’d gotten to the point where words didn’t matter much. I could’ve unloaded everything, catalogued every fear and disappointment I was carrying around back then and it wouldn’t of amounted to a proverbial hill of beans.
The only defense I had was to remind her of how we’d got started. I’d say, You used to love it when I’d get to listening. You’d sit there and say, Put a good one on, won’t you?
Sure, she’d say, but that was before.
Before it was every night. Before now.
What do you even say to that? Anything? I mean, when you get down to it, is there ever a straight line between how business starts and how it ends?
Of course there’s not.
Of course not.
There’s a big old drop is what there is. Like a rock clunking down a valley. Like an aeroplane spinning in the clear, blue sky.
Hey, I said to her one day in a plane from Indiana to Washington. We were on our way out to her grandma’s funeral. Life was strange but static. Hey, I said, what if we went and crashed? What would happen then?
Then we’d crashed, she said.
I said, Sure, but what then?
Then we’d be dead.
Is that it?
Seems to me, she said, that that’d be it. I mean, there ain’t much after the crash if I understand crashes right.
There’s no guessing to it. You die and that’s that.
In that moment, looking at her so sure and resolute, I think I loved her more than ever. I took her hand in mine and made a big show out of kissing it like a gentleman. I love you forever, I told her. You hear me?
I hear you, she answered, though she didn’t seem to believe me completely.
Now, halfway through Bringing It All Back Home, I head upstairs and take that same hand and lead her down to the player.
Listen, I say.
What? she says.
I move the needle back. Crank it as far as it’ll go.
Ed’s already up. Hand against the glass. Gown shed. Eyes heavy.
Listen, I say.
She closes her eyes. Maybe she’s just tired. I don’t know much of anything anymore.
Hey, I say. Listen. Listen, all right?
All right, she says.
The guitars come. The snare. I wish it could be louder. I wish there were no limits. I wish the speakers could be a set of twin engines growling through the daylight. I wish, I wish, I wish.